Quotations about   endeavor

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It was better, he thought, to fail in attempting exquisite things than to succeed in the department of the utterly contemptible.

Arthur Machen (1863-1947) Welsh author and mystic
The Hill of Dreams, ch. 5 (1907)
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Added on 26-Jan-19 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.

plath-love-my-rejection-slips-wist_info-quote

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) American poet and author
(Attributed)
Added on 23-Jan-17 | Last updated 23-Jan-17
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To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

zinn-itself-a-marvelous-victory-wist_info-quote

Howard Zinn (1922-2010) American historian, academic, author, social activist
“The Optimism of Uncertainty,” The Nation (2 Sep 2004)
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Adopted from Zinn's essay of the same name in Paul Loeb (ed.), The Impossible Will Take a Little While (2004). See also Zinn, "A Marvelous Victory" (23 Feb 2004).
Added on 28-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Dec-16
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It is not yours to finish the task, but neither are you free to set it aside.

tarfon-finish-the-task-wist_info-quote

Tarfon (fl. 1st-2nd C AD) Jewish rabbi, sage
Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 2:15-16

Alt. trans.:
  • It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.
  • It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to avoid it.
  • We need not finish the task but neither can we desist from it.
  • Although I am not free to avoid doing the work, it is not always necessary that I finish the task.
  • You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Added on 21-Nov-16 | Last updated 21-Nov-16
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Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Speech, Plymouth (22 Dec 1802)

Sometimes given as "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."
Added on 11-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Nov-16
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YODA: No! Try not. Do — or do not. There is no try.

Lawrence Kasdan (b. 1949) American screenwriter, director, producer
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) [with George Lucas and Leigh Brackett]
Added on 5-Feb-16 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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Rome was not built in a day.

John Clarke (d. 1658) British educator
Proverbs: English and Latine (1639)
Added on 5-Aug-15 | Last updated 5-Aug-15
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Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
Added on 18-May-15 | Last updated 18-May-15
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The firefly only shines when on the wing.
So is it with the mind — when once we rest
We darken.

Philip James Bailey (1816-1902) English poet
Festus (1839)
Added on 30-Mar-15 | Last updated 30-Mar-15
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What one has, one ought to use; and whatever he does he should do with all his might.

[Quod est, eo decet uti: et quicquid agas, agere pro viribus.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Cato Maior de Senectute, 2.9.27
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Added on 10-Feb-15 | Last updated 10-Feb-15
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When we watch a child trying to walk, we see its countless failures; its success are but few. If we had to limit our observation within a narrow space of time, the sight would be cruel. But we find that in spite of its repeated failures, there is an impetus of joy in the child which sustains it in its seemingly impossible task. We see it does not think of its falls so much as of its power to keep its balance though for only a moment.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Indian Bengali poet, philosopher [a.k.a. Rabi Thakur, Kabiguru]
Sadhana: The Realization of Life, ch. 3 (1913)
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Added on 20-Jan-15 | Last updated 20-Jan-15
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The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that costs.

Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamrond, Marquise du Deffand (1697-1780) French hostess and patron of the arts [Madame du Deffand].
Letter to Horace Walpole (6 Jun 1767)
Added on 5-Jan-15 | Last updated 5-Jan-15
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In love, in war, in conversation, in business, confidence and resolution are the principal things.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
Table Talk, “On the Qualifications Necessary to Success in Life” (1822)
Added on 26-Dec-14 | Last updated 26-Dec-14
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Spurious)

A common "inspirational" quote, frequently attributed to Twain, but not found in writings. Earliest found is in H. Jackson Brown, P.S. I Love You (1990), attributed to Brown's mother. More info here.

Added on 13-Jun-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little. Do what you can.

Sydney Smith (1771-1845) English clergyman, essayist, wit
Elementary Sketches of Moral Philosophy, “Lectures at the Royal Institution” (1804-1806), Lecture 19 (1850)
Added on 17-Nov-08 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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There are two great rules in life, the one general and the other particular. The first is that every one can in the end get what he wants if he only tries. This is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is more or less of an exception to the general rule.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
Notebooks (1912)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-May-15
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I have tried my best to give the nation everything I had in me. There are probably a million people who could have done the job better than I did it, but I had the job and I had to do it, and I always quote an epitaph on a tombstone in Tombstone, Ariz.: “Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest.”

Harry S Truman (1884-1972) US President (1945-1953)
Time, “The Presidency: The Answer Man” (28 Apr. 1952)

Speaking in Winslow, AZ (15 Jun 1948), Truman said, "You know, the greatest epitaph in the country is here in Arizona. It’s in Tombstone, Ariz., and this epitaph says, 'Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damndest.' I think that is the greatest epitaph a man could have."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jun-16
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